Neither winds nor a heavy downpour could deter the Greater Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce's Politics After Hours held outside in front of the chamber's offices. Nearly 30 candidates, many of them local running for local district seats, were on hand to meet informally with 100 or more visitors who came and went during the late afternoon event on Oct. 25.
James Roach, a Democrat, who is running for a congressional seat representing Lehigh may have been the candidate seeking the highest office. He is running against Trey Radal, the Republican, who did not show up. Both are seeking to fill the seat left by Rep. Connie Mack who is challenging long-time U.S. Senator Bill Nelson.
Chamber President and CEO Gary Bright was happy with the turnout of both candidates of members of the public who plan to vote in the current general election. He had said when announcing the special event that there would be a "little different" get together than most candidate forums.
He said there would be no formal speeches.
"This gave the public a chance to have direct interaction with the candidates in a relaxed atmosphere," he said.
It was a relaxed atmosphere as it began at 5:30 p.m. But within the hour, heavy winds caused many to wonder if the event could continue. Then came a heavy downpour, the likes of rain never seen before, but the event was not deterred albeit some campaign tables were moved a few feet to escape the rain.
The Lehigh Chamber has one important asset that few other building or offices have and that is that there is a large roof-covered space in front of the office, enough to accompany large crowds. In the hot summer heat, it also offers people cooler temperatures because it shields the sun.
All of the candidates who came were provided tables if they wanted and most did with supporters handing out campaign literature.
The chamber had rented a large white tent that sat on the north side of the offices which contain a large grassy area. But few stood under the tent and found the outside corridor perfect to meet and talk to the candidates and to each other.
While the campaigning occurred outside, a meeting room inside the chamber office were tables of food from three catering firms. For those who had not eaten a supper meal, there was more than ample food and refreshments.
Eugen Borosch, a member of the chamber and owner of the office building housing the chamber offices, said he was happy to provide food for everyone - candidates and the public. Most were surprised when they saw the array of hot and cold foods available for the taking.
"We wanted to hold this last event in Lehigh for the candidates to come and for the voters who had not met them to show up and ask any questions face-to-face with the candidates," Borosch said.
There has been only one other political event in Lehigh staged for candidates' speeches and for meeting those running for office. That was a forum held at Veterans Park in the Ruth Anglickis Conference room and outside large patio deck. That event was held a few weeks ago on the same day that Vice President Joe Biden was visiting nearby Fort Myers to campaign on behalf of President Barrack Obama. It had been sponsored by the Community Council of Lehigh with Tami Baker overseeing a successful candidates forum. Those seeking political office were given the opportunity of speaking for three minutes. Later they were able to mingle with visitors.
Chamber CEO Bright said that in this last political forum, he wanted a relaxed atmosphere where the public and the candidates could have direct interaction.